For anyone reading this who knows me, it would come as no surprise that I consider Metal Gear Solid an influential game in my life. I’ve written about the game, and the Solid series it spun off into, at some considerable length, including my ramblings about how the unique atmosphere of the game is simply unlike any other game before or since.
But, as far as my personal experience playing the game as a child goes, the story of how I came to know about the game is important, and it started with a 1998 PAL-region Demo 1 disc that came packaged with my PlayStation console.
This particular disc, labeled “PBPX 95007”, blasting off with a sweet Euro-late-90s-as-hell intro, came loaded with a bunch of demos for games that I was already super-excited about, like Tekken 3 and Medievil, as well as a demo for a game that I never knew I wanted: Kula World; oddly mesmerizing, and for some reason, oddly terrifying. Something about a sapient, low-poly, jumping beach ball was equal parts fascinating and scary to me at a young age.
More relevant to this story, however, the disc also included some video trailers for games that were already well-known to me like Crash Bandicoot 3 and Spyro (and Spice World, but yeah), and that’s all well and good. But, in the midst of all these usual suspects, there was a video for something called “Metal Gear Solid”, a perplexing combination of words that I had never previously heard.
And boy oh boy, the contents of this ridiculous trailer changed everything.
At a run-time of about 5 and a half minutes, the trailer (embedded above) – which I later found out was the same as the trailer shown at E3 1997 – is basically a mini-film, something unheard of at the time for a video game trailer. It also, for whatever reason, tells a story that’s really different from the story of the actual game.
Why on Earth the trailer creates this completely different story about Meryl and Snake teaming up, rigging the Shadow Moses facility with C4 explosives, and then shooting aimlessly away into the Alaskan night is anyone’s guess. All the while, Hideo Kojima’s name is seen plastered throughout, which probably made it the first instance of me being aware that a “director”, an actual person, worked on this game.
It’s almost as though Sony and Konami executives were like, “Hey, this needs more action”, to which Hideo Kojima teeth-grindingly responded, “You want action, huh?”. But, I digress. Realistically, if I had to guess on one possibility, it’s that the early build shown in the E3 1997 trailer was more of a tech showcase, of what the game was capable of. One has to remember that back in 1997, E3 was still pretty much an expo where companies and devs almost exclusively showcased technology.
Regardless, the trailer piqued my interest to no end. On the demo disc, it stood out as an oddity. I had never seen anything like it, in fact, I was fairly convinced for a long time (whatever a long time is for a 10 to 11 year old) that it was either an interactive movie game or that the trailer was the extent of such a thing. It was probably over a year after that, at some point in 1999, that I actually got to play the game.
As I’ve written before, the game’s atmosphere is above all what left a lasting impression on me. It was nothing like the trailer that got me into the game, sure, but I had all but forgotten about all of that, glued instead to this very solitary, foreign, cold world, where everything seemed to have been aligned in tones of green and black.
The over-expository story told to you by floating heads via radio, the confusing (for my age) plot, the meta nature of the game where you have to look at the back of game’s case to find a Codec frequency or, similarly, look at a girl’s ass to figure out her disguise, the eerie existence of Psycho Mantis, his goddamn ominous theme, plus all the ambient sounds within the game itself – it was just so full of moments that all seemed like isolated but big events, like remembering scenes and elements from a film.
Metal Gear Solid is a game that is still, as of 2018, unlike any other I’ve played, and even within the series, has such a distinct, isolated nature to it that is like lightning in a bottle. I don’t believe it can ever be matched or created, and while maybe part of this is nostalgia, I can confidently say that revisiting it as a jaded adult has left me with the same impression.
There is a lot of talk recently about how Metal Gear Solid needs to be the next game on the chopping block for yet another remake (the game already had an abysmal, laughable remake made for the GameCube called Twin Snakes, that all but missed the mark, let’s just say), but it’s not an idea I’m fond of.
MGS has a very specific style and look to it that simply can not be matched by plastering high resolution 3D assets all over the place. It would suck the very unique atmosphere dry off the bone, as was done so recently in the Shadow of the Colossus remake.
Plus, there’s the whole thing about how series-creator and auteur Hideo Kojima would not be involved in the creation of such a remake due to the very public (as public as it can be for a Japanese company) spat between him and Konami.
Metal Gear Solid is a game that no doubt changed how I thought about games since then, and it has been crazy to see the series become such an international big-league success. I remember lurking around fan sites and forums, getting excited about the whole thing with other people, and learning about the original MSX games that MGS is a sequel to.
It’s safe to say that this game captured other people’s imagination just like it did mine, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the many directions the series ending up going into, it’s no doubt that Metal Gear Solid changed my life forever.